“Sharpen Your Blade and Put Your Animal at Ease”: Islamic Ethics and Rituals of Killing Non-Human Animals
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CitationFriedlander, Nuri. 2020. “Sharpen Your Blade and Put Your Animal at Ease”: Islamic Ethics and Rituals of Killing Non-Human Animals. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation approaches the question of killing animals in Islam from the perspective of ritual as adjudicated within the sphere of Islamic jurisprudence, one of the primary repositories of ethical values in Islam. Through assigning legal assessments to human actions, Muslim jurists describe and map moral behavior. Islamic legal manuals are one of places Muslims turn for moral guidance, but it is also where they look for direction on the performance of many rituals that are essential to the practice of Islam. I argue that ritual provides a meaningful framework to consider practices of killing animals in Islam that allows space for discussions of their ethical dimension, as well as deeper questions regarding what it means for humans to allow themselves to kill non-human animals and the ways in which that is justified. Embedded in these Islamic ritual practices and their legal exegesis are both an acknowledgment of the pain that animals suffer, as well as efforts to minimize that pain and to justify it by imbuing it with theological significance. Throughout the classical period of Islamic law, Muslim theologians, legal theorists, and jurists acknowledged animal suffering and explicitly stated that it should be a concern for all Muslims. They framed the permissibility of animal slaughter as a function of the divine decree that killing animals for food is an ethically good act. In addition to rituals of killing animals to produce food, works of Islamic jurisprudence also address rituals of sacrifice, which, as opposed to slaughter for food, are explicitly devotional. In all of these examples, jurists are concerned with minimizing animal suffering and ensuring that rituals are carried out appropriately so that the meat they produce can be considered pure and the devotional act can bring the worshiper closer to God.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365851
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